The other day I was leaving work, and something weird happened. I got into the elevator and I was by myself and suddenly I remembered the feeling of what it used to be like to love people with my hands. And it felt so tangible and real and I realized how much I miss it. This world without words but a thousand, small actions that give life. That fight for life.
And because that world isn’t mine anymore (but feels like maybe it is wanting or trying to return to me) I wrote about it. (For my nursing family).
“I used to say I love you with my hands.
‘I love you’ as I filled the syringe with medicine, the bedside pitcher with water. ‘I love you’ as I fluffed the pillow. ‘I love you’ as I turned and touched sore bodies and cold, clammy flesh.
‘I love you’ through the thin layer of latex free, sterile gloves. ‘I love you,’ my lips formed the words behind masked mouth, counting your pulse.
‘I love you’ to the beating of your struggling heart. ‘I love you’ over the noise and the beeping keeping you alive.
‘I love you’ in a war zone. ‘I love you’ as we kept fighting and ‘I love you’ as you gasped your last breath.
‘I love you’ as I pulled and disconnected the wires from your empty body, saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I love you, I loved you.’
These days, my hands say less. They don’t squeeze into ill fitting gloves, or wipe sweaty foreheads and necks and arms. Mostly, they hang at my sides.
Or they pick up a pen.
‘I love you, I love you, I love you’ I write and tell stories about children running and playing in ditches filled with refuse or try so hard to describe the taste of yuca or is it plantains or is it yams? The way they melt in my mouth so hot and soft and how I can endure the heat of this tropical sun for another day or maybe weeks or maybe months because finally, I know the taste of joy.
‘I love you, I love you, I love you’ I write letters home.
‘I love you, I love you, I love you’ I hear the echo of minarets sing but they call to a people whose language I don’t speak and it sounds so pure and I ache and I ache and I ache.
‘I love you, I love you, I love you,’ I promise with every hello and my hands stay at my sides and they feel so lost at the sight of your hurt and so I write. ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’ and I search for band-aids or words or tea and I pray the medicine will work, this time.
That my love will work.
That my love will heal, this time.”